Waco artist Jeremy Newton admits he finds inspiration in places where many people find office supplies.
Pink rubber erasers? Lines on ruled notebook paper? Matchboxes and matches? Staples new and used? Newton has created artwork from all of those and more, much of which is on display in his solo show at Art Center Waco.
The exhibit, “Modern Art: 2-D and 3-D, Con-cep-tion-al,” shows the transformation of ordinary objects into contemplative art through changing their shape.
The red and blue lines on three largely white canvases in the center’s main gallery, for instance, were painstakingly cut from notebook paper, then shaped into large circles and arranged in non-parallel lines — arrangements far from the smaller, regular rules that make notebook paper functional.
Silver staples — more than a million, according to Newton — constitute the giant “Staple Stalactite” that hangs from the ceiling and dominates the show. That piece began when Newton assembled several strands of staples and liked how they formed a slightly irregular shape when dangled vertically. He started “Staple Stalactite” in 2009 when a graduate student at Stephen F. Austin State University, thanks in part to a “staple party” with a group of friends, and has added to it through time.
That time-consuming process characterizes other works by the 28-year-old East Texas native, who started teaching art at McLennan Community College last fall. Tiny ballpoint pen heads, cleaned and held in place by a magnet, comprise the small silver circle of “Indispensible.” “Puddle of Lakes” is a flat circle filled with small blue paper balls, handrolled from blue lakes cut out of atlas maps. “Pentapens” takes its title and look from five blue ballpoint pens used until their ink ran out while the yellow cone of “100 Feet” is a pile of 1/16 inch slivers cut from a tape measure.
Newton admits his methodology might strike some as obsessive or compulsive, but says the amount of time spent on a piece fully acquaints him with the material.
“Time is the critical aspect to bring these pieces to life,” he said.
Though some of the pieces in “Con-cep-tion-al” rely on a change in form and color for their meaning — toothbrush bristles packed into blue and red cubes for “Toothbrush Bristles,” for instance — others draw additional meaning from their original use. The dark, weathered staples compacted into cylindrical form for “Healing” were pulled from a telephone pole where they once attached posters.
Before and after photographs suggest that even after the staples were removed from the pole, they left behind scars, as healing often does, the artist said.
Nearby is Newton’s “Shavings of Time,” a horizontal surface just off the floor and roughly 5 by 7 feet, covered by a layer of pink rubber eraser shavings. It’s more than pink, rough and flat, he said. “When we erase, we automatically sweep (the rubber pieces) away and don’t think about them at all,” he said. “Metaphorically, every day of our life is like a shaving. It can’t go back to the eraser.”
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